A remarkable man, portrayed unremarkably,
This review is from: Oliver Cromwell (Paperback)
Very relevant to the world of the 21st century, Gardiner portrays a man acting illicitly to circumvent the misuse of democratic processes by extremists. Personally generous, Cromwell finds himself savaging those who would impose their religious beliefs on others. As these are both his co-religionists as well as the hardliners of those who would bring back the monarchy, he is increasingly isolated. An autocrat who tried to avoid dictatorship, working for the common people, Cromwell adumbrated modern attitudes to social equality while losing the battle for consensus.
He comes further adrift in foreign policy, including some potentially disastrous ideas for war in central Europe and lacking historical perspective in his approach to Ireland, unfortunately his most potent legacy in terms of how he is remembered. However, the downfall of the Protectorate emerged from his wanting people to be so much more moral than they are. Over-regulation of social life, combined with continued taxation of a people unused to such an imposition, meant that the default mode was monarchy.
Cromwell did ensure, however, that monarchy was never to be the same. The later 'Glorious Revolution' merely told the people what they already knew: there was a limit to the powers of the head of state. Cromwell ensured that merit was a recognised virtue and that top people could be accountable.
Unfortunately, Gardiner, while a technically fine writer, fails to excite and could have organised his material in a more succinct way. He even fails to make much of surely one of the funniest scenes to engulf a head of state. Money being short, some soldiers went into his kitchen, took his very dinner from its plate and told him to his face that they were exacting payment in kind.